Country mouse on lambing

Lambing time is a heady mixture of the beauty of life and the tragedy of death. Lambs dying during the birthing process temper the joy of spraying a matching number on a ewe and her Brillo-pad-coated twins. When I was a boy, we had a small flock of about 40 Suffolk sheep, and lambing was my favourite time of the year. I prayed for twins in the same way a football fan wants his team to win and ticked them off on a chart as they popped out.

The dread of the present virus must be ghastly. Luckily, one ewe called May, bottlefed by my sister when she was born an orphan, always had triplets, and she kept the average up if another had a singleton or, worse, another died.

Once, we were left in charge for the day, when our parents went to a wedding. One ewe went into labour and, instead of two feet appearing like Tom Daley diving cleanly into a swimming pool, there was only a head. This was a disaster. Somehow, with steaming buckets and piles of soapy Lux flakes, we managed to push the head back and deliver the lamb, followed by its twin. We had saved three lives. That’s quite a thing when you’re 12.

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